Drug trafficker's admission comes despite success at quashing first conviction The Japanese man who prompted a landmark ruling - that it is the prosecution's burden to prove an accused drug trafficker had known they were carrying drugs - has pleaded guilty to trafficking and been sentenced to 15 years' jail. Asano Atsushi, 25, yesterday admitted smuggling 6.83kg of methamphetamine worth HK$2.55 million - in his second appearance before the Court of First Instance on the trafficking charge. He originally faced the Court of First Instance in January 2004, when he pleaded not guilty to drug trafficking, saying he did not know the substance he was carrying was a dangerous drug. He was found guilty at that trial and sentenced to 20 years' jail. His conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal in June last year, which ruled that the presumption that Atsushi knew the substance was a dangerous drug was a violation of the presumption of innocence under the Basic Law. The court ordered a retrial. Stemming from his appeal, the Court of Final Appeal further ruled on August 31 that suspects found in possession of dangerous drugs, who claimed they did not know they had them, would not have to bear the burden of proof. Under that ruling, the burden of proof now falls on the prosecution, which has to establish in court that a defendant had known about the drugs. The Court of Final Appeal's judgment in Atsushi's case also marks a change in the interpretation of a section of the Dangerous Drug Ordinance, to keep it consistent with the presumption of innocence as protected under Article 87 of the Basic Law and Article 11 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights. In yesterday's hearing, Atsushi pleaded guilty before deputy High Court Justice Judianna Barnes Wai-ling to one count of trafficking. Atsushi admitted that on March 25, 2003, at the departure hall of Hong Kong International Airport, he had unlawfully trafficked in 6.83kg of methamphetamine, known as Ice. In mitigation, defence barrister Hanif Mughal said Atsushi had previously been of good character and that he was genuinely remorseful for committing the offence. Mr Mughal said his client had attempted suicide after the arrest and had later become a Christian. The court heard that Atsushi, who was 22 at the time of the offence, was offered 200,000 yen (HK$13,100) by a Japanese man, named in court as Kaneko Takashi, to take a free trip to Hong Kong and bring the drug back to Japan. Accepting the offer, Atsushi departed from Sendai in Japan for Hong Kong on March 9, 2003. He was given seven bags of the drug on the morning of March 25. The drug was seized from his rucksack when he attempted to leave Hong Kong on the same day.